Megan Strong Works with Elephants and Marine Life


Senior at StFX majoring in Biology travels to Thailand

This summer, Megan Strong, 21, of Toronto, Canada, spent three weeks in Thailand helping animals, studying conservation, and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Megan was selected as part of a small team that volunteered giving care at a dog shelter, worked directly with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary, and volunteered in marine conservation on the island of Koh Tao.

The Veterinary Service program brings students to Thailand to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the US and Thailand. For one week, Megan and her team volunteered at an elephant sanctuary outside Chiang Mai, Thailand to work with the giant animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale.

The sanctuary is home to elephants who have been rescued from trekking, logging, or forced breeding programs. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness. At the elephant sanctuary, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world. Megan helped to feed and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The sanctuary is also home to over 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses, and cows, and is sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers like Megan.

Photo: © 2018 Loop Abroad

Photo: © 2018 Loop Abroad

Megan also spent a week volunteering at a dog rescue in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The shelter is home to dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten, or abused. While the dogs can be adopted, any who aren’t will be cared for by one of the local shelters for their whole lives.

While she studied under the veterinarians leading her group, Megan and her team made a difference in the lives of these dogs. By providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds, and helping with sterilization surgeries, the students were able to help support the health and well-being of these dogs.

Megan then spent a week on the island of Koh Tao in the South of Thailand, working through Loop Abroad with the New Heaven Marine Conservation project. She helped to do marine surveys via SCUBA diving, worked on creating artificial reefs to help rebuild the coral reefs of Thailand, and studied marine conservation.

With plastic consumption and marine pollution in the news daily, projects like New Heaven and Loop Abroad’s marine conservation projects aim to help educate students like Megan while allowing them to be part of making a tangible difference in protecting biodiversity in the world’s oceans. From cleaning beach trash to tracking ocean animal populations, this work focuses on empowering local organizations to make a daily impact and help increase education about the importance of marine biodiversity and the health of our oceans and sea life.

Loop Abroad has animal science and veterinary programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help. Interested participants can inquire or apply at Admission to veterinary and marine programs is selective and Megan was selected based on her transcript, admissions essay, and professional references.

By following a study abroad model instead of a voluntourism model, Loop focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally run animal welfare and conservation organizations so that students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit. With programs in Thailand, South Africa, Australia, and the Amazon and Galapagos, Loop Abroad is able to support animal welfare and conservation around the world because of its students and their dedication to helping animals in need.

Photo: © 2018 Loop Abroad

Photo: © 2018 Loop Abroad

The program’s Managing Director Jane Stine says, “Our students are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They are kind, compassionate, dedicated, hard-working individuals who have big goals and want to make a big impact. It’s amazing to see how eager they are to learn and challenge themselves. Over the last nine years, we’ve seen them go on to do some wonderful things.”

Of her trip, Megan says, “This trip has been an extremely rewarding and fun experience. I was able to work with animals I probably would not have otherwise had the opportunity to work with, as well as learn a lot of things I can use in the future.”